The lying finally came to an end Thursday. Well, some of it.
Electronic Arts and The Collegiate Licensing Company settled a lawsuit brought about by former UCLA basketball standout Ed O’Bannon, who correctly argued that his likeness – and the likenesses of every other player in the EA Sports college video games series – had been used unfairly. And it had been. For years. And we all knew it.
At first, EA Sports’ legal team argued that the avatars in the games did not represent real people, which is so laughable it could be considered performance art.
Yes, I’m sure it was a funny coincidence that the speedy Southern Cal running back in NCAA 06 just happened to wear No. 5 and look exactly like Reggie Bush, or it was totally random that the NCAA March Madness game in the same year had a Duke shooting guard who wore No. 4 and was really proficient at hitting the 3.
Wisely, EA Sports backed out of the case in a California Federal Court and will not produce a college football game next season. (The college basketball game already had been stopped.)
Earlier, the NCAA pulled its official license from the gaming company and three power conferences eventually followed.
This series of events could be the key to pulling out a bigger rug from under the NCAA’s charade of making profit and keeping players from doing the same.
Next could be merchandise. Really, merchandisers make the same nonsense argument that EA Sports used to make. They argue that jerseys don’t have names on the back, so they don’t represent real people.
Well, let’s take a look.
On Duke’s merchandising website, I’ve noticed it’s staggeringly easy to find a No. 30 basketball jersey. Same goes for No. 5. It’s probably a coincidence those happen to be the numbers of Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee, the team’s two best players from last year.
On North Carolina’s website, No. 2 football jerseys seem to be in large supply, which runs alongside the career of Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner pretty nicely. Same for No. 35 basketball jerseys. Wasn’t that Reggie Bullock’s number? Strange.
Plenty of red or black No. 15 basketball gear on N.C. State’s page, which I’m sure has no correlation to fan favorite Scott Wood.
Not a single one of those players will receive a dime.
The three Triangle schools aren’t the only ones who do it. It’s everybody in the Football Bowl Subdivision and most in Division I basketball who pull the same nonsense. Think it’s hard to find No. 2 Texas A&M apparel? Or a shiny blue Florida jersey with No. 15 on the back? Or a ‘Fear The Brow’ Kentucky T-shirt?
Stopping boosters paying athletes is one thing. Actively preventing a player from profiting off his own name and own accomplishments is totally another – it’s an outrageous attempt to sidestep capitalism.
But, hey, this isn’t capitalism, right?
It’s the NCAA, just your regular old non-profit organization.